By Jennifer Driscoll |
The Principles of Engineering course at High Technology High School challenges students to solve real-world problems through hands-on experience – most recently by building 8-foot tall towers out of newspapers.
Working in teams, the students had to assemble their towers using only rolled newspapers and masking tape. They were required to build a structure that could support the full weight of a soccer ball, which needed to be placed at the top without using any furniture or ladders, or by lifting any of their group members. Each team’s tower was required to utilize a “truss” design, which involves using geometric triangles to evenly distribute weight throughout the structure.
The goal of the project was for students to apply the structural analysis skills they learned in class to create a stable, aesthetically pleasing, and cost-effective tower in under one hour.
The assignment proved to be both an exciting and difficult challenge for students. Nia Mallangada, a sophomore taking the course, said her group took pains to create a stable design, but their tower was successful in the end. “I feel like I have a deeper appreciation for those working in civil engineering because we struggled so much with just making a simple newspaper tower,” she said. “I cannot imagine how much effort is required to build objects such as bridges or buildings.”
The hands-on aspect of the assignment also appealed to the students, allowing them to see the real-world application of the concepts they had been learning. “I liked doing this assignment rather than having a conventional test or written project, because it allowed me to see how trusses worked in reality, rather than through a computer simulation or a PowerPoint presentation,” said Julia Draganoff, another student in the class.
One of her classmates, Emeka Echezona, agreed, saying he appreciated that cost effectiveness was taken into account for the assignment. “I liked that the amount of materials we used was measured, as it gave an incentive to not waste our resources,” he said. “It forced us to find a balance between a sturdy tower and a cheap one.”
It seems the Principles of Engineering course has succeeded in its goal of encouraging students to explore different engineering and high tech careers. Draganoff said she had been “looking into civil engineering as a possible interest” before the project, and now would like to continue learning more about the field.
Her classmate Brianna Yao said that although she doesn’t think she will pursue civil engineering as a career, the assignment gave her more respect for what civil engineers do. “Just driving on the road, you could see phone towers that have similar designs to some of the soccer towers,” she said. “It’s cool to see how similar problems are solved in the real world.”
This article was first published in the Dec. 14-21, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.
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